In the higher difficulty you really have to use your elemental effects as those will either stun or improve a lot on damage in GOW fights. Building up frost and then switching to blades and adding fire add that extra damage. You can also upgrade the moves you use the most to deal better damage, elemental or stun by going to niflheim and practicing those moves. It really makes a big difference in delivering damage since the harder difficulty you can basically get one shot and the enemies are basic sponges for damage.
I usually finish the game on balance first before trying the harder modes because you cannot really perform those nice combos because the enemies just power through most attacks and do not stagger or stun as much.
I'm already over mid game, 35h in, and almost no combos given. When dealing against boss I try to build up the energy on the weapon and inflict status, but the status go over very fast =p
And even basic enemies don't stutter much unless you are focusing all attacks together with ally on it, so combo is very hard to pull
That's why I don't like those kind of difficulty settings, they tend to make the combat a chore instead of fun occurrences. Part of the thrill of the game is chaining those attacks, staggering weak foes or sending them into the air and then dodge when the others get too close. Fighting huge damage sponges who don't flinch as I wail on them ain't my cup of tea.